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Molly Blankenship

Like so many others, I have been consumed in recent days with the events unfolding across our nation. 2020 will deserve its own textbook for history students of the future.

COVID-19 brought to light and expanded the structural inequalities that the Chattanooga 2.0 coalition is committed to addressing. We and our network of partners have dedicated much of our efforts over the past three months to coordinating and aligning emergency responses to COVID-19's impact on students, families and learners of all ages, especially those who continue to be disproportionately impacted.

Now, as protests and the fight to end injustice consume so many American cities, including our own, my own emotions have run the gamut from tired, to angry, to scared, to hopeful. Yet through pandemic and unrest, good people are still fighting for one another. To save lives. To stop the spread. To demand justice. To be heard. And that gives me hope.

To our partners, colleagues, and friends of color: We acknowledge the generations of systemic racism against black and brown communities. We hear you. We stand with you. We value you.

Amid efforts to seek justice, to educate, and to unite in response to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and far too many other black Americans — it is more important than ever that our community work together to create lasting change. That we acknowledge that the status quo is unsustainable, and that we seek productive avenues toward something better.

To our partners, colleagues, and friends of color:

We acknowledge the generations of systemic racism against black and brown communities. We hear you. We stand with you. We value you. … And so, we must be brave enough to be uncomfortable. We must listen and make space for the voices of the unheard. We must place a commitment to achieving true equality and justice at the center of our work.”

— Molly Blankenship

To become the Smartest Community in the South, we must clear the path to educational attainment and economic security for all our residents, particularly our most marginalized community members. Our work requires a rigorous and sustained commitment to addressing systemic and institutional barriers. And so, we must be brave enough to be uncomfortable. We must listen and make space for the voices of the unheard. We must place a commitment to achieving true equality and justice at the center of our work.

As the Chattanooga 2.0 coalition moves forward in our collective efforts to improve outcomes in Greater Chattanooga, we make a commitment to put equity front and center in all we do. This starts internally with ourselves and our team and works outward in the ways we seek to support partners in moving our community toward healing and progress.

But I know our team and our coalition cannot do this alone. If you're looking for ways to help, we encourage you to use this time to listen, to learn, to have uncomfortable but crucial conversations, and to give your time, resources and compassion to those closest to the issue.

Molly Blankenship is the executive director of Chattanooga 2.0 and vice president of Talent Initiatives for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

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